Mailbag: Trout, A-Rod, Montero, Teixeira, Latos, OF Defense

Got 15 questions in this week’s mailbag. If you want to send us anything throughout the week, send it to the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address.

(Jonathan Moore/Getty)
Trout. (Jonathan Moore/Getty)

Anthony asks: If you had to engineer a hypothetical trade for Mike Trout, which team/system would come the closest to actually putting together a reasonable package? Which players change hands?

My first thought was the Nationals with Bryce Harper plus Anthony Rendon or Lucas Giolito, but it’s three years of Harper for five of Trout. Giancarlo Stanton plus Jose Fernandez for Trout would be fun as hell, wouldn’t it? Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole? Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner? Point is, the Angels would need immediate impact pieces. Trout is the best player in the world, he’s only 24, and he’s signed below market through 2020. His trade value goes beyond WAR.

Think about it. The Red Sox could offer Mookie Betts, Yoan Moncada, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Blake Swihart for Trout and it’s still a no because there’s only one clearly above-average big leaguer in that group. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard? No, pitchers are way too risky. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo? That … might actually be in the ballpark. I’d rather have the +10 WAR up the middle star than the two +6 WAR corner infielders though.

Trout is insanely valuable because of his age, contract, and production. If the Angels trade him, it would need to be a massive franchise-altering deal that is simply way too good to pass up. You can’t trade Trout’s historic greatness and leave yourself saying “if these two young players work out, it’ll be a great deal for us.” No. The guys you get have to be impact players right away. Looking around the league, I don’t think a reasonable package for Trout exists. He’s way too good.

Sean asks: Fair to say the Diamondbacks traded the wrong shortstop (Didi)? He looks to be the better than Owings or Ahmed.

I was a really big Chris Owings guy a year or two ago. Coming up as a prospect who looked like someone who could play above-average defense at short and actually hit. There was some J.J. Hardy in his game. He was dreadful last year though, hitting .227/.264/.322 (52 wRC+) in 552 plate appearances, and the defensive stats hated him at second. Nick Ahmed is a very good gloveman at short and he was slightly less of a disaster at the plate (67 wRC+). Didi had an 89 wRC+ last year and he played the hell out of short. Plus he’s less than a month older than Ahmed, so it’s not like there’s a huge age difference either. (Owings is 18 months younger.) Yeah, it’s fair to say Didi is the best of the bunch right now.

J.J. asks: Not that I’d complain about it, but if the Yankees do have Sanchez and Severino on the 25-man roster for most/all of the year, and if Bird or Judge (or both) spend some time on the MLB roster as well, does the farm system ranking take a hit? It would seem the team has graduated most of its top prospects, other than Mateo, and the ranking would again plummet.

Of course. When you graduate talent like that — Greg Bird and Luis Severino both graduated last year, Gary Sanchez will this year, maybe Aaron Judge too — the farm system definitely takes a hit. I know everyone wants a high ranking farm system, but if you’re graduating talent to the big leagues, who cares if the system is ranked 5th or 25th? The MLB level is what matters most. Even after those graduations, the Yankees will still have Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian, hopefully a healthy Ian Clarkin, the entire 2014 international class, plus whoever they draft in June. The system will go on. Graduating talent to MLB is fun. Enjoy it and don’t worry about farm system rankings.

Paul asks: What kind of send off do you think Alex will get? Gifts and ceremonies from each team at every stop? Nothing at all? Something in between?

Gosh, I don’t know. I get the feeling Alex Rodriguez won’t announce his retirement beforehand. His contract is up after the 2017 season and he might just play that out, and see what happens in the offseason. A-Rod loves baseball and let’s face it, he’s very narcissistic, so he might think he still has something left in the tank after 2017. It would be pretty awkward if he announced his plan to retire in Spring Training and then went the season with no recognition of his career whatsoever. It would be embarrassing. I don’t think he’ll make an early announcement. So nothing at all is my answer.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Montero. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Kyle asks: What would it take to get Jesus Montero back? I know he’s busted and positionless (and the Yanks have no spot for him), but man, I wish the Yankees had a chance to develop him, and they love reclamation projects.

Should be very little. There is no interest in fellow busted prospect Domonic Brown and he’s a free agent. All he costs is cash. No one’s going to give up something of value for Montero. The best case for Seattle seems to be the Dustin Ackley trade, meaning two possibly useful depth pieces. Montero is 26 now, he’s a first baseman/DH, and he hasn’t hit at the MLB level since September 2011 with the Yankees. And he’s out of options too, so you can’t stash him in Triple-A. I have Montero nostalgia too, 2008-11 was a great time for prospect watchers, but the Yankees have no use for him at all. Even if it clicks, where do they play him?

Paul asks: I don’t understand the Yankees reasoning for not trying Greg Bird or even Rob Refsnyder at 3rd base. They both seem to be athletic enough. Since Bird was a catcher and Refsnyder an OF they should have the arm strength.

I strongly disagree about Bird having the athleticism for third — remember how stiff he looked at first base? — and Refsnyder having the arm. Second and third bases are very different. You have more time to make the play at second given the proximity to first base. I understand why people are wondering why Bird and Refsnyder aren’t trying third, but if there was any tiny little reason to believe they could handle the hot corner, they’d be trying it in the minors. The Yankees had Tyler Austin and Pete O’Brien try third. They stuck with Eric Jagielo and Dante Bichette Jr. at third. Bird and Refsnyder are below-average defenders at less reaction-based positions. Trying them at third means ignoring their current defensive limitations and basically hoping and praying it works. That’s no way to make decisions.

Greg asks: On the assumption he is not re-signed, what is Mark Teixeira‘s Yankee legacy like?

I’ve been thinking about stuff like this a lot recently now that all the long-term contracts are getting closer to ending. I don’t know what Teixeira’s legacy in pinstripes is. He was a key piece of a World Series team and he’s had very productive years in pinstripes, but he’s also had some injury plagued and disappointing years too. The 2016 season will be a factor here, but overall, I think Teixeira’s time in New York won’t be remembered as fondly as it should be. He’s been a good player for a long time in pinstripes. When it’s all said and he done, Teixeira is going to be over 200 homers and +22 WAR with the Yankees. And yet I feel like he’ll be remembered as a disappointment. That’s a shame.

Noel asks: As the game evolves, and the emphasis on younger players gets stronger could we see upcoming soon a whole crop of free agents in their primes?

Yes, I think so. Especially the pitchers, because nowadays teams seem to be in a rush to get their top young arms to MLB, perhaps to get as much out of them before they blow out their arms. Clubs will try to lock up their best young players to long-term contracts, but they won’t sign all of them, especially not the Scott Boras clients. The much anticipated 2018-19 free agent class is scheduled to have a lot of mid-20s stars — Harper, Fernandez, Manny Machado, etc. — but who knows who will actually hit the market. I do think we’ll see more prime-age free agents in the coming years. It might be five or six instead of one or two though. Not substantially more.

Rich asks: When it comes to outfield defense, do you consider it to be something that’s often overrated or underrated (and why)?

Overrated. Strikeout rates are at an all-time high and ground ball rates are as high as they’ve been at any point since batted ball data started being recorded back in 2002. Some teams have low strikeout (Twins) or fly ball heavy (Rays) pitching staffs, but, generally speaking, fewer batted balls are traveling to the outfield in the air than at any point in baseball history. Outfielders are seeing less defensive action.

Also, as fans, I think we do a crummy job evaluating outfield defense. I seems like the concept of one year of defensive stats meaning little goes out the window with young center fielders. We’ve seen a lot of young center fielders come up, post an insane UZR in years one and two, then crash back to Earth. Peter Bourjos. Franklin Gutierrez. Juan Lagares. Ben Revere. (Let’s see what happens with Kevin Kiermaier and Kevin Pillar in the coming years.) Outfield defense is really important. You can get away with bad outfielder defenders more easily now than you did a few years back though.

Sean asks: Whatever happened to Luis Sojo?

He’s been coaching for the Yankees since his playing career ended in 2003. Sojo was the Yankees third base coach in 2004-05, High-A Tampa manager from 2006-09 and 2011-13, and Triple-A Scranton third base coach in 2014. He’s still in the organization as an assistant field coordinator, whatever that is. Sojo also managed the Venezuelan team in the three World Baseball Classics.

(Jamie Sabau/Getty)
Vote for (some other team to sign) Pedro. (Jamie Sabau/Getty)

Sam asks: Pedro Alvarez. Hear me out. He’s still relatively young, former 2nd pick overall, and it wasn’t too long ago that he was actually an average to above average 3b (2013). Kind of pedigree the Yankees have been attracted to. I know you’ll say he’s just a platoon DH at this point, but if got in better shape could he be a passable backup 3b/1b? Allow Greg Bird more time in AAA.

Alvarez is not and has never been even an average defender. He’s very much a butcher in the field. I don’t know why the defensive stats rated him as above-average at third in 2013, but that year is a huge outlier compared to the rest of his career.

Pedro Alvarez defense

I don’t think this is a matter of getting in better shape. Alvarez lacks the reflexes and athleticism for third. This is not new either. There have been big questions about his defense dating back to college. Alvarez is close to a full-time DH now — the Pirates used him at first base last year, and while we should cut him some slack due to inexperience, it was a disaster — and he needs a platoon partner too. Teams are steering clear of one-dimensional sluggers these days.

Alvarez grew up in Washington Heights and homecomings are always cool, but I don’t see him as a fit for the Yankees. Bird has the same skill set. Give him the roster spot, if anything.

Dan asks: I always see for pitching prospects that their peak is a number two starter. Are there any pitching prospects in recent history that have been projected as number 1 starters?

Oh sure. There are very few though. No. 1 starters are rare and usually you can see them coming a mile away as prospects. Guys like Dallas Keuchel and Corey Kluber, who went from middling prospects to true aces, are extremely rare. They’re the exceptions. Then again, maybe we’ll see more out of nowhere aces as teams improve their scouting and coaching methods.

The only prospects in the minors right now who have true ace ceilings are Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito and Dodgers LHP Julio Urias. They have the stuff, the command, the athleticism, and the makeup. Usually young pitchers only have one or two of the four and teams hope to develop the rest. Going back through the last few years, I’d put Fernandez, Syndergaard, Cole, Dylan Bundy, and Stephen Strasburg in the ace prospect group. The term “ace” gets thrown around way too often. “Future ace” gets thrown around even more.

Michael asks: How low would the price have to drop before the Yankees would pounce on Mat Latos?

I assume the price is pretty low right now. Latos is still pretty young — he turned 28 last month– but he stunk last season (4.95 ERA and 3.72 FIP) and has had ongoing elbow and knee issues the last two years. That said, Latos was pretty good around the injuries in 2014 (3.25 ERA and 3.65 FIP). I think the Yankees would be thrilled to get Latos on a minor league contract for depth, though the same is true for 29 other teams. I don’t think the Yankees would or should sign him to an MLB deal and guarantee him a rotation spot. I’m not sure the reward is there after how bad he looked down the stretch last year. His stuff was clearly down.

Mark asks: With the Yankees acquiring Corporan do you get concerned the Yankees will trade Sanchez for a young starter? Unfortunately it seems the Yankees have zero trust in what they used to call organizational depth. I’m having trouble remembering a catcher not named Jorge that the Yankees didn’t trade away over the last 5 years. No 10 years. No 15 years. No 20 years. 25….. Ehhh.

Well you kinda started to answer your own question. The Yankees had Jorge Posada all those years, so trading young catchers like Dioner Navarro made sense. Montero could not catch, so they traded him. Same with O’Brien. You could argue the Yankees should have traded Austin Romine a few years back. Last year the Yankees had Frankie Cervelli and John Ryan Murphy behind Brian McCann, so something had to give. The same was true this year with Murphy and Sanchez.

The Yankees didn’t give these guys away — Navarro, Montero, O’Brien, and Cervelli were all traded for above-average players (the jury is still out on Murphy and Aaron Hicks) — they recognized a surplus and used it to address other needs. That said, I don’t think Sanchez is going to be traded because McCann is getting up there in catcher age and they need a good Plan B. Also, the catching pipeline has dried up. Luis Torrens is the only notable non-Sanchez catching prospect in the organization and he’s in Single-A coming off shoulder surgery.

Tony asks: I just read an article on NY Daily News website that mentioned the contracts coming off the books after this season. They mentioned CC Sabathia has a 25 million dollar vesting option for 2017 “that will kick in if he enjoys strong health in his left shoulder and stays off the disabled list and in the rotation.” My question is, is that a literal explanation?

Sabathia’s option for 2017 will vest unless any one of these three things happen:

  • Sabathia finishes 2016 on the DL with a left shoulder injury.
  • Sabathia spends more than 45 days on the DL in 2016 due to a left shoulder injury.
  • Sabathia makes more than six relief appearances in 2016 due to a left shoulder injury.

To date, Sabathia has never had any kind of shoulder injury in his career. His right knee is a wreck and three years ago he had a bone spur removed from his elbow. He also had some oblique issues way back in the day with the Indians. Sabathia’s shoulder is healthy, as far as we know. Will that be the case in 2016? Who knows. Pitchers break.

Curry: Yankees, Nova avoid arbitration with $4.1M deal

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Yankees and Ivan Nova have agreed to a non-guaranteed one-year contract to avoid arbitration, the team announced. Jack Curry says the deal is worth $4.1M and includes performance bonuses. Nova filed for $4.6M in arbitration while the Yankees countered with $3.8M. They settled a bit below the midpoint. MLBTR projected $4.4M.

Nova, 29, missed most of the first half of last season as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery. He had a 5.07 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 17 starts and 94 innings after returning, and at one point he was demoted to the bullpen, though he never did actually make a relief appearance because Masahiro Tanaka‘s hamstring forced Nova back into the rotation.

The Yankees reportedly listened to trade offers for Nova this offseason, but obviously didn’t find anything to their liking. His trade value isn’t all that high due to the poor performance and recent Tommy John surgery. I think Nova is more valuable to the Yankees as a depth arm than anything they could realistically acquire in a trade.

Right now Nova is the team’s sixth starter, and barring injury, it’s hard to see how he beats out any of the starting five for a rotation spot in camp. There’s always a chance Nova will improve as he gets further away from elbow reconstruction, and hey, maybe he’ll pitch his way into qualifying offer territory. Either way, I’m sure Nova will make a bunch of starts in 2016. The sixth starter is always needed.

With Nova signed, New York’s only unsigned arbitration-eligible player is Aroldis Chapman. He filed for $13.1M and the team countered with $9M, which seems way too low. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chapman took the Yankees to a hearing over that. His case seems pretty good. Arbitration hearings will take place throughout February.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Got some site news to share: next week will be Retro Week here at RAB. There’s a whole bunch of nothing going on at this point of the offseason, so why not look back at the good ol’ days? This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1996 team, and that was the first championship club many Yankees fans witnessed, myself included. We’re going to focus on that 1996 team on their 20th anniversary. Retro Week always seem to go over well. Should be a blast.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The NHL is in its All-Star break, but the Knicks are playing tonight, and there’s some college hoops on the schedule too. Talk about anything and everything here, except religion and politics. Thanks.

Jorge Mateo gets honorable mention among MLB.com’s top ten shortstop prospects

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

MLB.com’s look at the top ten prospects at each position continued yesterday with shortstop, a position that is always loaded with talent. Dodgers SS Corey Seager and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford claim the top two spots. You could easily argue they are the two best prospects in baseball right now, regardless of position.

Yankees SS Jorge Mateo did not make the top ten list, but he did earn an honorable mention. Like I said, shortstop is always crazy stacked, and the 20-year-old Mateo is not quite in the top tier after just one year in full season ball. Here’s MLB.com’s blurb. As always, their scouting reports are free:

Jorge Mateo began earning Jose Reyes comparisons as soon as he made his U.S. debut in 2014, and he lived up to them by leading the Minors with 82 steals in his first taste of full-season ball last year. His top-of-the-line speed, offensive upside and defensive chops make him the Yankees’ shortstop of the future.

The Reyes comp doesn’t bug me as much as the Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton comp, but it’s still crazy unfair to Mateo. For starters, Reyes hit .307/.334/.434 (102 wRC+) in the big leagues when he was Mateo’s age. The Mets called him up at 19 and he played 69 games in his age 20 season. Also, Reyes is a switch-hitter and Mateo is a right-handed hitter, and that’s a huge difference for speed guys. Lefty hitters can jailbreak out of the batter’s box.

Anyway, Mateo will open this coming season with High-A Tampa and figures to reach Double-A Trenton in the second half, as long as everything goes well. He hit .278/.345/.392 (114 wRC+) with a pro ball leading 82 stolen bases last year, and if he does something like that again next year, Mateo will definitely be a top ten shortstop prospect. No doubt about it.

Gary Sanchez ranked second on the catcher list and Rob Refsnyder ranked ninth on the second base list. The Yankees didn’t have anyone on the righty pitcher, lefty pitcher, first base, or third base lists. The outfield list will be released later today and Judge is a safe bet to make an appearance, likely somewhere in the 6-10 range.

Sorting out the projected 2016 Triple-A Scranton roster

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

Over the last few seasons Triple-A rosters have become extensions of the 25-man big league roster. There is no better example of this than last year’s bullpen shuttle. Teams use their Triple-A rosters not only to develop prospects, but also to stash depth players at each position should they be needed due to injury or poor performance. And they will be needed. Baseball always makes sure of it.

Brian Cashman has already said the Yankees hope to use their 25th roster spot as a revolving door based on their needs at the time. If they need an extra bullpen arm, they’ll call up a pitcher. If they need an extra outfielder because someone is banged up, then they’ll call up an extra outfielder. It sounds like a great plan. Will it work as well in reality as it does on paper? We’ll see.

So, with that in mind, let’s sort out the projected Triple-A Scranton roster as it sits right now. After all, these guys are the backup plans for the big league team. I have zero doubt we’ll see several of these players in the Bronx this coming summer, including guys none of us would ever expect. Remember Kyle Davies? Matt Tracy? Yeah. Let’s start with the position players. Asterisks (*) denotes players on the 40-man roster.

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Utility
Gary Sanchez* Greg Bird* Slade Heathcott* Tyler Austin
Carlos Corporan Rob Refsnyder* Mason Williams*
Eddy Rodriguez Pete Kozma Ben Gamel*
Sebastian Valle Donovan Solano Lane Adams*
Jonathan Diaz Aaron Judge
Cesar Puello

There are 25 roster spots in Triple-A and, believe it or not, that is relatively new. Triple-A and Double-A teams had 24-man rosters as recently as 2011. It’s pretty common for Triple-A teams to carry three-man benches and eight-man bullpens because of workload limits and whatnot, especially early in the season before guys are fully stretched out. I’ve got 16 position players in the table there, so three or four won’t make the cut one way or another.

Catchers: All signs point to Sanchez being the big league backup catcher, though that’s not set in stone just yet. The Yankees could send him to Triple-A for regular playing time and to work on his defense. As an added bonus, sending Sanchez down for 35 days or so will delay his free agency another year. Assuming Sanchez makes the MLB team, Triple-A catching duties will belong to Corporan and either Rodriguez and Valle. They’re all defense-first guys who can’t hit.

Austin Romine, Sanchez’s primary competition for the backup job, is out of minor league options and has been outrighted before, meaning if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he has to go through waivers and can elect free agency if he clears, which I imagine he would do in an effort to find a better opportunity. There appear to be only two ways for Romine to remain in the organization beyond Spring Training: he gets the backup catcher’s job, or he gets hurt in camp and is placed on the MLB DL.

If Sanchez doesn’t make the big league roster, he’ll be the starting catcher in Triple-A with either Romine or Corporan backing up Brian McCann. If Romine backs up McCann, Corporan will be in Triple-A. If Corporan backs up McCann, Romine will be gone and either Valle or Rodriguez will be with Sanchez in Triple-A. For now, I’ll say Sanchez makes the big league roster. The Yankees leaned on their prospects a lot in 2015 and I think that’ll continue in 2016.

Bird. (Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

Infielders: Barring injury, Bird and Refsnyder will start the season with the RailRiders. “That’s the optimal” according to Cashman, at least when it comes to Bird. The Yankees lost Ronald Torreyes on waivers earlier this week but still have Kozma, Solano, and Diaz on minor league contracts. I expect them to compete for a big league bench job in camp, and hey, one of them might win a spot.

In that case, Bird and Refsnyder will hold down the right side of the infield while the other two guys handle the left side. That means the RailRiders still need a utility infielder. There are going to be five infielders on the roster no matter what. Cito Culver and Dan Fiorito are the best candidates for that job right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees brought in one more minor league infielder these next few weeks. A minor league contract or waiver claim, something like that. One pulled hamstring in camp and the Yankees could be real short on upper level infield depth.

Outfield: The Triple-A outfield picture is crowded and yet crystal clear. Judge, Slade, Williams, and Gamel will be the four regular outfielders. They’ll rotate around the outfield and at DH. Simple, right? Puello, who played exactly one game in 2015 due to a back injury, is an obvious candidate for Double-A. Between the two catchers, the five infielders, and the four outfielders, we’re already at eleven position player spots.

So right now there is room for only one more position player since an eight-man bullpen is rather common in April. That last spot comes down to Adams and Austin. Both stunk in Triple-A last season and had to be demoted to Double-A in the second half. Adams is two years older and a better defender, but Austin has the advantage of being able to play a little first base as well. Plus he has seniority in the organization. That can’t hurt.

My guess — and this is nothing more than a guess — is Adams will get the Triple-A spot over Austin. Adams is older and on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees probably want to figure out what they have in him as soon as possible. If he can’t hack in Triple-A, they’ll cut him and move on. In that case Austin would anchor a Double-A Trenton lineup that is a little light on prospect power. He, Puello, Taylor Dugas, and Mark Payton would be the Thunder outfield.

After all of that, the Triple-A roster looks like this on the position player side:

Catchers (2): Two of Sanchez, Corporan, Rodriguez, and Valle.
Infielders (5): Bird and Refsnyder, Kozma, Diaz, and Solano. If one of them lands a big league job, Culver or Fiorito are candidates to fill the spot in Triple-A.
Outfielders (5): Judge, Heathcott, Gamel, Williams, Adams.

Position battles in Spring Training will determine the exact roster, as will injuries and things like that. The last big league bench spot is wide open, and the backup catcher’s job is not Sanchez’s just yet. Now let’s move on to the pitchers.

Starters Righty Relievers Lefty Relievers
Bryan Mitchell* Nick Rumbelow* Chasen Shreve*
Luis Cessa* Branden Pinder* Jacob Lindgren*
Anthony Swarzak Nick Goody* James Pazos*
Brady Lail Kirby Yates* Tyler Olson*
Chad Green Johnny Barbato* Tyler Webb
Jaron Long Vinnie Pestano
Eric Ruth Tyler Jones
Ronald Herrera Mark Montgomery
Caleb Smith

Lots and lots of pitchers. I have 22 names in the table for 12-13 Triple-A spots and three big league bullpen spots, so 6-7 of those guys are going to get stuck in Double-A. Of course, not everyone will get through Spring Training healthy. A handful of pitchers always get hurt in March. (There always seems to be a rash of Tommy John surgeries in Spring Training as pitchers ramp up their throwing.) It’s a vicious part of the baseball calendar.

I honestly think the Yankees will use those final three MLB bullpen spots to take the players they believe give them the best chance to win, regardless of previous role or handedness. If it’s three lefties, so be it. If it’s three guys who are starters by trade, fine. Remember, the Yankees took David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno north as relievers back in 2013 because they were the best options. The team didn’t worry about leaving one or two stretched out in Triple-A.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

Trying to predict who will make the bullpen right now is impossible and a waste of time. No one expected Preston Claiborne to come to camp throwing fire three years ago, putting him in position for a big league call-up. Shreve might have a leg up on everyone else because he was so good for the first four and a half months last season. Aside from that, good luck figuring out who starts in MLB and Triple-A. And besides, the shuttle ensures these guys will be rotating in and out all year anyway.

I will say that of those 22 pitchers listed, I believe Ruth, Herrera, Smith, Jones, and Montgomery are mostly likely to be squeezed down to Double-A due to a roster crunch. (Herrera’s the guy who came over in the Jose Pirela trade.) I wouldn’t necessarily call them non-prospects. They’re just low priority prospects in the grand scheme of things. They lack the upside of the other pitchers in the table, relatively speaking.

Among the deep depth arms are lefty Chaz Hebert and righty Kyle Haynes. They’re among the starters who will open the season in Double-A and jump to Triple-A whenever a spot start is needed because of call-ups and whatnot. Ruth, Herrera, and Smith are in that group. There’s no doubt the Yankees have a ton of upper level pitchers, particularly in the bullpen. Now they just have to figure out which of these guys can stick in the big leagues.

Judge, Mateo, Sanchez all make Baseball Prospectus’ top 101 prospects list

Judge ... and Sanchez! (Rob Carr/Getty)
Judge and Sanchez at the Futures Game. (Rob Carr/Getty)

We are now firmly in preseason prospect ranking season, and earlier this week Baseball Prospectus teased their annual by posting their top 101 prospects list. You can see the PDF right here. The whole thing is free. No subscription required. Dodgers SS Corey Seager claims the top spot and is followed by Twins OF Byron Buxton and Nationals RHP Lucas Giolito in the top three.

The Yankees have three players on the top 101: OF Aaron Judge (No. 18), SS Jorge Mateo (No. 65) and C Gary Sanchez (No. 92). Judge is the fifth outfielder on the list, behind Buxton, Rangers OF Nomar Mazara, Padres OF Manuel Margot, and Rangers OF Lewis Brinson. Sanchez is the fifth catcher behind Cubs C Willson Contreras, Athletics C Jacob Nottingham, Phillies C Jorge Alfaro, and Pirates C Reese McGuire.

“Judge should make his debut in the Bronx sometime in 2016, but it feels like a man of his proportions and potential needs a nickname. For opposing pitchers he might very well be ‘Judge Dredd,’ or when he fires one back up the box, ‘Judge Holden,'” said the write-up. I agree, Judge needs a good nickname. Judge Dredd is a little too obvious though. Nicknames have to come organically. You can’t force ’em. We’ll come up with a good one in due time.

As for Mateo, the write-up says he is “an 80 runner fully capable of stolen-base titles” while adding he “offers a potentially solid glove at shortstop as well.” As with any 20-year-old speedster in Single-A, the question is whether his bat will play and allow him to reach base often enough to raise hell. “The bat is still quite raw,” said the report. “But he can challenge the old adage that ‘you can’t steal first.’ Every ball in play is a potential single, and every ball up the alleys a potential triple.”

Sanchez “took steps forward on both sides of the ball in 2015, and the plus power and plus-plus arm that have kept him on every new iteration of this list are still very much present,” according to the BP crew, who noted this was Sanchez’s sixth year on the BP 101. Geez. It figures to be his last, however. Sanchez has the inside track on the backup catcher’s job, and even if he doesn’t find himself on the Opening Day roster, a midseason call-up feels inevitable.

Judge, Mateo, and Sanchez represent the crown jewels of the Yankees’ farm system along with RHP James Kaprielian. Those four are clearly the top prospects in the system. There’s a pretty significant gap between them and everyone else. Judge, Mateo, and Sanchez should appear on all top 100 lists this spring and Kaprielian might sneak one on or two as well.

Thoughts three weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three weeks from today Yankees pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training. Three weeks isn’t so bad, is it? I’m totally over the offseason. Bring me some real baseball. Even wire photos of players standing around in Tampa will hold me over. (The photo above is from last year.) Anyway, here are some assorted thoughts.

1. I think Gary Sanchez should open the season in Triple-A. My feelings on this seem to change by the day, but the service time benefits are becoming way too good to ignore. Only 35 days in the minors this year — 35 days that would be completely justifiable given his defense — equals team control of Sanchez’s age 29 season in 2022. That 2022 season is a really long way off, yeah, but we’re talking about 35 days in 2016. That’s nothing. And given all the early-season off-days — the Yankees have four off-days in April and five off-days in the first four weeks of the season — the backup catcher only figures to start five or six times during those 35 days. The service time rules are so borked that trading those five or six games early in 2016 to gain control of Sanchez’s age 29 season is a no-brainer. Letting Austin Romine or the recently signed Carlos Corporan serve as Brian McCann‘s backup for five or six weeks is the best big picture move for the Yankees.

2. The only notable free agent outfielder still on the market is Dexter Fowler, and if he goes to the Angels, there will be close to zero trade suitors for Brett Gardner. I do still think the Yankees will end up keeping Gardner and going into the season with him, but as long as the Halos have that gaping left field hole and some young pitching to spare, we can’t close the door on a trade entirely. I still think Fowler is in good shape at this point of the offseason even though he’s tied to draft pick compensation and several big market teams signed outfield free agents. Off the top of my head, the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, Indians, Angels, Athletics, Cubs, Cardinals, and Nationals all could use one more outfielder. Among those nine teams, only the Angels and Indians a) don’t have a protected pick, or b) haven’t already forfeited their top pick to sign another qualified free agent, or c) haven’t picked up an extra pick(s) for losing a qualified free agent, and the Indians pretty clearly aren’t going to spend the kind of money it’ll take to get Fowler. The other seven clubs can more easily surrender a draft pick to sign a free agent. Fowler’s going to get paid. As long as it isn’t by the Angels, there’s still a chance Gardner will be traded.

3. This has been a pretty slow offseason for trades, don’t you think? The biggest names traded this winter are Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Shelby Miller, Todd Frazier, and Andrelton Simmons, I’d say. That’s about it. The two true superstars are relievers. The slow free agent market certainly played a role in that. There were plenty of quality players available for just money in January. Now that most of those free agents are off the board, I wonder if we’ll see a quick rush of trades involving biggish name players these next few weeks. Gardner could be in that group, and looking around the league, guys like Jonathan Lucroy, Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier, the Rockies outfielders (Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Carlos Gonzalez), and the Padres starters (Tyson Ross, James Shields, Andrew Cashner) all seem like candidates to go. Trades are so much more exciting to me than free agent signings. Hopefully we see a few these next three weeks to spice up the offseason.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

4. I enjoyed Dave Cameron’s recent post on tanking. I agree MLB teams don’t lose on purpose — this isn’t the NBA or NHL, where you pick high in the draft and get a potential superstar who impacts your team the very next season — but there are absolutely instances of teams not doing all they can to win. There’s no greater example of that than the 2011-13 Astros. They made no effort to be competitive. Anyway, what I want to say is I think there are too many incentives to be bad in baseball right now. Being bad not only means a high draft pick, it means large draft and international spending pools, it means having a protected first round pick, and it could mean extra draft picks (those 12 Competitive Balance Lottery picks the league hands out each year) and revenue sharing dollars depending on the market size. Teams are rewarded handsomely for being bad. I hope the next Collective Bargaining Agreement changes some of that, preferably eliminate the draft and international pools. How about giving the five best teams in the league a protected first round pick? Winning should be rewarded too. The bad teams gets all the perks.

5. This trade deadline is going to be really interesting. I want the Yankees to contend, but if they’re not, they need to sell off some pieces at midseason. The decided not to move Robinson Cano and David Robertson a few years back, but at least then they knew they were getting a draft pick for those guys should they leave as free agents. It’s unlikely the team will make a qualifying offer to either Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran after the season. The Yankees have to be honest with themselves. If they’re not in the race, they should look around to see what the market is for rental Teixeira and Beltran. Their no-trade clauses may be an obstacle, but they have to at least try to get something for them rather than nothing. The same goes for Chapman, though he’s a qualifying offer candidate. The Yankees are emphasizing youth now. Dealing Teixeira and Beltran brings back a young piece or two and opens up playing time for Greg Bird and either Aaron Hicks or Aaron Judge. Hopefully the Yankees are in contention and this is all moot. If they’re not though, holding onto Teixeira and Beltran for appearances would be a mistake.